bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Conversations With The Surplus

Dear Rachel

I am writing this on a train, in First Class as is my custom.  I would be more able to write about what I originally intended – which was eggs that taste of fish and former girlfriends who look like Louise Weiner – if I were not currently semi-entertaining a man called Julian.   Julian is drunk, and has chosen me to be his pal.   He has just gone for a fag out of the window, which is why I’m quickly knocking out a couple of paragraphs.  Just this second the guard offered to shift him into the next carriage for me, which I said wasn’t necessary.  My new drunken companion has no malice in him, and while I could do without the urgent explanation of his work – he runs a small business that repaints 747s at Heathrow – as an ex-publican I feel confident among the inebriated.    He’s just come back to the carriage, sneezed several times, started mucking about with his iPhone, and will probably fall asleep if we all just leave him alone.

He doesn’t strike me as a lonely drunk, which is a nice thing, although unsurprisingly the single saddest thing I have ever seen involved loneliness, and happened on an overnight coach coming back from Sheffield to London in the early hours of the morning, having seen Pulp play their last gig for what would be eight years.   I had been aware throughout the journey of an old guy chatting to some younger women in the seats somewhere behind me as we charged down the M1 all snug and warm in our little metal womb.  While I couldn’t make out what was being said, it was clear from the general tone and volume that, like my new friend Julian, such conversational headway as was being made was due to the tolerance of the audience rather than the effervescence of the raconteur.   We stopped a service station somewhere – Droitwich? I dunno – and everyone bundled out for a bit of a walk around.  I went to play an arcade game called Area 51 for a while, as I’d had this in my pub.   It involves shooting zombies and such with a plastic handgun, and I was good at it.   We had it at the same time as a driving game called Daytona Beach, which every so often would say ‘Daaaytonaaaa!’ to attract attention, something I’m sure we’re all guilty of at one time or other.  Due to suspect soundcards, this would sound a lot like ‘Dave Bowleeeer!‘, and as a bloke actually called Dave Bowler was one of my regulars, was the kind of thing that guaranteed no end of entertainment on quiet afternoons in a ’90s funpub.

Anyway.  I finished playing Area 51, and because motorway service stations do not typically attract ex publicans who have enjoyed the benefit of unlimited free credits with which to perfect their zombie shooting skills, achieved the top score.   If you find yourself in a Midlands service station, check any Area 51 games you see for a top score by ‘WHU’ (for West Ham United, obviously) – as it was a massive score, and may well still be current.   As I finished entering my initials, I became aware of the old bloke and the younger women walking back to the coach, clearly in the aftermath of some minor but recent unpleasantness.   Tagging along at a respectable ear-wigging distance, I managed to ascertain that the women had told him very firmly to leave them alone.   This is not the saddest thing I have ever seen, because really, it’s fair enough.   The saddest thing I have ever seen, or come to think of it seen being said, was the snatches of conversation I was able to make out as we walked across the car park, in which the bloke kept saying that he ‘just wanted the company’, until it dawned on me with a strange creeping feeling across my shoulders that he wasn’t trying to solicit them, or anything distasteful like that.  No.  He didn’t have anything to go to in London, or anywhere else.  He just spent his time traveling around randomly on coaches, because for reasons unknown, it was the nearest to company he ever got.   He dutifully said nothing for the rest of the journey, and vanished into the December morning at Victoria coach station.   I had wanted to make some pretext for striking up a conversation and getting him a cup of coffee as I also had nothing to do, although mercifully only for a couple of hours rather than the whole of the rest of my life.   It was the morning that Girls Aloud had seen off One True Voice to win Popstars: the Rivals, and I wondered what he might make of something like that.   I suppose that in all of us, like a Russian doll you never want to open, is a dapper but unwanted pensioner reduced to prising companionship out of National Express customers, and if awful wheels should turn and you or I or anyone we know should find ourselves surplus and avoided in Victoria coach station, we might be glad of the conversation.

Twitter: Everyone is fascinating all the time.

Facebook: Oh I dunno.   Still at 118 I should think.

Photards: this weeks’ canter through the archives are -

Top: Greenwich Market dog Bingo, or as he is also known Jango, asleep.   He’s been adopted by an armour maker from Buckinghamshire now.   You’d feel pretty safe, living with an armour maker, so old Bingo hit the jackpot there.

Middle: Steve Veedubs and Gary in the garden of the Duke of Wellington public house.    Steve once accidentally drank his own urine, you know.    Well, accidentally the first time anyway.

Lower: Gary and Chris at the bar in the Duke of Wellington public house.   Facial expressions and general positioning suggest that Gary is performing bored hand relief on Chris.


  1. Ruthie formerly 'Free Massage'

    Nov 20th, 2010
    2:33 am

    Book. Write it now.

  2. Paul

    Nov 20th, 2010
    7:53 pm

    Ha. I’m not sure there is a train journey long enough, unless you can get to Jupiter from Euston these days.

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